Industry has been waiting for the US Air Force to commit funding for the next-generation bomber, and new chief of staff General Norton Schwartz opened the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition with confirmation that he will continue to advocate for his predecessor's NGB concept.

"This is a vital programme for the country," Schwartz said, "and we will certainly make a fact-based but strong argument for NGB as we move into spring/summer of 2009."

Norton Schwartz

A decision to launch is needed in the next budgeting cycle, for fiscal 2010, to preserve the USAF's goal of deployment in 2018. But while Schwartz's plan allows the NGB to be part of the discussion in the next quadrennial defence review it moves the project beyond the timeline required for meeting the FY10 budget plan.

Funding pressure on the NGB is compounded by concerns about the USAF's ability to support its primary mission of air dominance.

"We are for the first instance in a long time critically on the edge of losing our air dominance for the joint force," said Rebecca Grant, president of Washington DC-based defence think tank IRIS Independent Research.

Source: Flight International